St Anton is firmly established as one of Europe’s top ski resorts – a perfect fusion of Tyrolean charm, adventurous skiing and some of the liveliest après-ski in the Alps.
The picturesque, mountain village of St Anton oozes ski atmosphere. Think rustic Tyrolean chalets, traditional family-run hotels and a car-free centre flanked by cosy cafés, restaurants and chic boutiques selling the latest ski clothing. Round the clock, there’s always a jovial buzz; by night, its cool, cosmopolitan vibe draws a lively snow-sports crowd with a hard-partying agenda.
The resort is the centrepiece of the majestic snow-sure Arlberg ski region, situated near the Austro-Swiss border within easy reach of both Innsbruck and Zürich. Its lift pass incorporates the slopes of Lech, Zürs, St Christoph and Stuben, with over 280km of prepared pistes to suit all levels, plus endless off-piste opportunities.
St Anton is a magnet for advanced skiers, with an abundance of steep, challenging terrain, including the narrow black Kandahar run (scene of many historic downhill races), and the patrolled but ungroomed Schindlerkar – the longest steep run in the Arlberg, with a vertical drop of 650m. Off-piste junkies head to the fearsome Valluga mountain for the ultimate powder adventures (guides required). For everyone else, there’s plenty of intermediate cruising throughout the resort, especially the runs down from Gampen and Kappall, while beginners are advised to stick initially to the nursery slopes at Nasserein or the easy blues at Rendl. Mark Warner has teamed up with Graham Austick and his Piste to Powder guiding team, all qualified IFMGA guides, who will help you explore the spectacular Arlberg region (firstname.lastname@example.org).
1. Beginners need not purchase a lift pass for the entire Arlberg ski area. There are special Beginners’ tickets daily for the nursery slopes and lifts, either for one day or a half-day (from noon) or on a points system – each time you use a lift, you get points deducted.
2. Take lessons. St Anton is world-renowned for its excellent ski instruction. If you’re not with a ski instructor, beginners should always stick to the blue runs. Some reds in St Anton could well be equivalent to a black in other resorts.
3. The network of red and blue runs around Gampen and Galzig are often very busy, especially in the late afternoon as skiers speed back down to the resort. Head to Stuben or Rendl for crowd-avoidance and quieter skiing on busy days, and ask your ski host.
4. Head for The Museum on the western outskirts of town, the main setting for the 2001 movie Chalet Girl;or reserve a table at the ancient Arlberg Hospiz-Alm in St Christoph for a special gourmet night out.
Teresa Fisher is a travel writer who specializes in family holidays, adventure travel and skiing. She has written over 25 travel guidebooks; lectures regularly for National Geographic Expeditions; and is also the publisher and content editor of www.familyskinews.com
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St Anton offers countless opportunities for winter recreation besides downhill skiing and snowboarding. There’s nothing more romantic than a snowy ride, snuggled under blankets in the back of a horse-drawn sleigh; or a beautiful walk through the pristine alpine landscape.
The resort also has 40kms of immaculately-groomed cross-country skiing trails; a swimming pool and spa complex (with a devoted children’s pool); ice-skating and curling; and the 4km-long floodlit toboggan run on old-fashioned wooden sledges from Gampen to Nasserein provides 15 minutes of snow fun for all.
St Anton has long appealed to the party crowd. It all begins on the slopes around 3.30pm, before you even get into resort, with massive foaming beers, DJ beats and dancing on the tables in such legendary slopeside bars as Krazy Kanguruh (reached by the Gampen chair and piste no 21); Mooserwirt, in a former cowshed just 200m further down the slope, and a little further down, Underground on the Piste.
After dinner, in resort, with vibrant bars and clubs like the Piccadilly, Kandahar and Murmel, St Anton easily earns its legendary status as the home of après-ski, as skiers – usually no longer clad in ski boots – party into the early hours.
Cuisine is mostly hearty, rustic, nourishing fare to fuel skiers, savoured in mountain huts and pine-clad Stübli (cosy dining rooms), served by staff in traditional dress and Lederhosen. Expect pots of warming soups; simple platters of local sausage, cold cuts and alpine cheeses; tasty Gröstl (similar to Swiss potato Rösti, served with a fried egg and Sauerkraut); Käsespätzle (a regional cheesy pasta dish) and ubiquitous Wienerschnitzels.
Wash it down with hot chocolate, Glühwein (mulled wine) and Jägermeister schnapps, and finish off with apple strudel or Kaiserschmarrn (a sweet pancake served with apple sauce or stewed plums).
St Anton is an excellent resort for snowboarders. For advanced riders, there are powdery bowls beneath the Valluga and a wealth of off-piste to shred. Snowboarders of all standards will enjoy Stanton Park on Rendl – a fun park divided into four areas (kids’ park, beginner, medium and pro) with kickers, lines, rails, boxes, pipes and jumps – to try out or show off your freestyle skills. Neighbouring Lech also has an advanced terrain park, which is a regular stop on the pro tour.
St Anton holds a special place in the history of skiing. It is considered the cradle of Alpine skiing as we know it today, thanks to Hannes Schneider, a local resident who founded the Arlberg Ski Club in 1901. The club pioneered ski lessons, mountain ski guiding and ski racing and also championed numerous developments in ski equipment. The club’s regular gatherings at the Hotel Post, to round off a day of skiing with some sociable eating and drinking, gave birth to après-ski.